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USFL Week 8: Touchdowns, players of the game, fantasy football workload notes and more

Birmingham, AL, USA; Houston Gamblers defensive lineman Chris Odom (93) celebrates after the final opportunity for the Michigan Panthers in the fourth quarter at Protective Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The USFL is still alive and kicking. Week 8 featured four more games full of lead changes, big hits and, well, live football. What more can one ask for in June?

What follows is a breakdown of all the Week 8 action, specifically noting:

  • Touchdowns
  • Offensive player(s) of the game
  • Defensive player(s) of the game
  • Fantasy football workload notes
  • Final thoughts

Be sure to check out The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for weekly reviews and preview episodes of this wonderful league.


New Jersey Generals 29, Pittsburgh Maulers 18

Touchdowns

Generals running back Darius Victor has split touches and snaps fairly evenly with Trey Williams all season long in between the 20s, but there’s little doubt who the man is around the goal line. Victor got the scoring started with a two-yard plunge into the end zone. Generals 7, Maulers 0

Maulers quarterback Roland Rivers found the end zone on the first drive of his first start of the season, capping things off with a five-yard draw for the score that featured an oddly robotic spike at the end, if we’re being honest. Generals 7, Maulers 7

The Generals regained the lead with (wait for it) another short touchdown run by Victor, who is my pick for the USFL’s version of The Muscle Hamster. Generals 14, Maulers 7

New Jersey stretched its lead with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Luis Perez to KaVontae Turpin, who is PFF’s highest-graded wide receiver on the season. Turpin displayed some angle-erasing speed on the score as the USFL’s closest thing to Deebo Samuel. Generals 20, Maulers 7

A 10-play, 67-yard drive by the Generals was finished by — and this is going to surprise you — Darius Victor from one yard out. Not one, not two, but three touchdowns on the day for Victor. Hail to the Victors, as they say. Generals 29, Maulers 10

Roland Rivers kept the Maulers in it with a 25-yard score to Isiah Hennie, who displayed some after-the-catch goodness on the touchdown. Even cooler was the Maulers’ “fourth-and-12” conversion after the touchdown in lieu of a traditional onside kick. Their comeback attempt would fall short, but hey, still pretty cool. Generals 29, Maulers 18

Offensive players of the game: Generals RB Darius Victor, Generals WR KaVontae Turpin, Generals QB Luis Perez

Victor converted his 17 carries into 87 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a trio of touchdowns while chipping in one reception for another 19 scoreless yards. Sixty-four of his yards came after contact, and he broke a solid three tackles on the evening. Credit to Victor for leading the USFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns through eight weeks of action.

Turpin posted 5-83-1 receiving and 2-10-0 rushing lines, all the while continuing to look like the most explosive player on the field. Overall, 59 of Turpin’s receiving yards came after the catch, and he forced two missed tackles in the game.

Perez completed 18 of 24 passes for 220 yards (9.2 YPA), one touchdown and zero interceptions. The performance was good enough to earn PFF’s second-highest grade of the week (84.3) among quarterbacks.

Defensive player of the game: Generals DT Hercules Mata’afa

Fantastic name aside, Mata’afa made his presence felt in a major way last week thanks to racking up six pressures alongside an elite 35% pass-rush win rate. Mata’afa didn’t manage to bring down the quarterback but finished with PFF’s seventh-best pass-rush grade on the week.

Fantasy football workload notes

Generals: Luis Perez continues to take every snap with De’Andre Johnson (ankle) sidelined.

While Trey Williams and Darius Victor largely split usage, Victor could handle a workhorse role moving forward depending on the status of Williams’ head/neck injury.

The Generals continue to roll with Alonzo Moore, J’Mon Moore and Ka’Vontae Turpin in three-receiver sets with Darrius Shepherd (hamstring) sidelined. Turpin’s lack of overall snap share isn’t too much of an issue, considering the Generals’ continued persistence in feeding him the rock.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Luis Perez 100% 0% 24 3 0 0
HB Trey Williams 53% 54% 0 12 2 -8
HB Darius Victor 47% 42% 0 17 1 -2
WR Alonzo Moore 86% 96% 0 0 4 73
WR J'Mon Moore 81% 96% 0 0 6 40
WR KaVontae Turpin 52% 71% 0 2 6 27
WR Cam Echols-Luper 10% 8% 0 0 0 0
WR Randy Satterfield 3% 0% 0 0 0 0
TE Braedon Bowman 69% 50% 0 0 3 36
TE Woody Brandom 67% 54% 0 0 1 0
TE Wes Saxton Jr. 31% 8% 0 0 0 0

Maulers: Roland Rivers has the full-time starting job over Vad Lee for now, but don’t be surprised if head coach Kirby Wilson randomly benches Rivers in the future for someone who's not even on the team at the time of this writing. There are absolutely no givens in this offense in terms of playing time, particularly under center.

The backfield continued to be split between Garrett Groshek and Madre London, while fullback Mikey Daniel is involved just enough to largely render the group as an auto-fade in fantasy land inside of the league’s worst offense.

Delvon Hardaway and Jalen McCleskey led the way in air yards and were the only receivers to post route rates north of 75%. Isiah Hennie has taken over the slot job from Tre Walker, who was potentially benched following his Week 7 fighting-induced suspension. Bailey Gaither sure looked like one of the USFL’s best wide receivers when healthy during the first six weeks of the season, but now he can barely find the field. Kirby gonna Kirby.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Roland Rivers 100% 0% 42 5 0 0
HB Garrett Groshek 47% 38% 0 8 1 4
HB Madre London 32% 24% 0 4 1 2
FB Mikey Daniel 22% 10% 0 3 0 0
WR Delvon Hardaway 95% 93% 0 0 8 114
WR Jalen McCleskey 80% 76% 0 0 6 115
WR Isiah Hennie 53% 57% 0 0 8 39
WR Tre Walker 36% 43% 0 0 3 47
WR Bailey Gaither 3% 2% 0 0 1 45
TE Hunter Thedford 73% 43% 0 0 5 17
TE Artayvious Lynn 59% 43% 0 0 1 1
Final thoughts

The Generals are in the playoffs and sitting pretty at 7-1 despite having to work without electric dual-threat quarterback De’Andre Johnson (ankle) for the past few weeks. Credit to Luis Perez for steadying the ship, as well as Darius Victor and KaVontae Turpin for arguably working as the USFL’s top two offensive playmakers all season long. This team is capable of beating anyone on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday.


Birmingham Stallions 10, New Orleans Breakers 9

Touchdowns

The Stallions' lone touchdown came on the second drive of the game, as they marched 84 yards in nine plays before J’Mar Smith found Adrian Hardy for the 27-yard touchdown. The score featured a b-e-a-utiful throw into the back corner of the end zone by Smith (shoutout to Hardy for getting two feet in, as well). Stallions 7, Breakers 0

New Orleans came out of the half with a sense of urgency, needing just five plays to travel 61 yards into the end zone. Taywan Taylor’s 44-yard reception from Kyle Sloter got the Breakers on the doorstep before running back Anthony Jones pounded it into the end zone from three yards out. This would unfortunately be the final touchdown of the game. Sheesh. Stallions 10, Breakers 9

Offensive player of the game: Stallions WR Marlon Williams

Williams posted a 7-109-0 receiving line and often looked to be moving at a different speed than everyone else on the field. The performance was good enough to earn the highest overall PFF offensive grade (89.9) of Week 8. Nobody had more explosive receptions (15-plus yards) than Williams (4) in Week 8.

Defensive players of the game: Stallions ED Dondrea Tillman, Stallions CB Josh Shaw, Stallions S Tyree Robinson, Breakers CB Keith Washington

Tillman (91.7), Shaw (91.2) and Robinson (90.0) were three of just six players to post an overall PFF defense grade of at least 90.0 in Week 8. The same is true for Washington (91.1). While 19 total points aren’t exactly can’t-miss television, at least there was plenty of good defense being played.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stallions: J’Mar Smith briefly left the field for Alex McGough, but the latter signal-caller appeared to suffer an ankle injury on his first carry and wasn’t able to return. The Stallions have even tried McGough at wide receiver in recent weeks. Smith remains a fairly safe bet to take 90%-plus of this offense’s dropbacks.

Bo Scarbrough wasn’t featured quite as heavily as last week with CJ Marable getting healthier from a previous knee injury. Tony Brooks-James was largely booted out of the rotation. While Scarbrough remains one of the league’s safer bets for 15 combined carries and targets during any given week, the pipe dream of getting a steady 20-touch floor doesn’t look good as long as Marable is around.

Marlon Williams and Osirus Mitchell worked as the clear-cut top two receivers, and the latter almost had a short touchdown but unfortunately fumbled while trying to reach across the goal line. Either way, Williams was clearly the No. 1 target with team-high marks in targets (11) and air yards (119). No other Birmingham pass-catcher had more than three targets. Note that it’s unlikely Williams remains quite as featured once wide receiver Victor Bolden (hamstring) and/or Jeffrey Thomas return to the active roster.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB J'Mar Smith 95% 0% 37 7 0 0
QB Alex McGough 5% 0% 0 1 0 0
HB Bo Scarbrough 62% 41% 0 14 3 7
HB CJ Marable 45% 27% 0 5 1 -2
HB Tony Brooks-James 7% 8% 0 0 1 21
WR Marlon Williams 92% 92% 0 0 11 119
WR Osirus Mitchell 67% 68% 0 0 1 6
WR Michael Dereus 58% 59% 0 0 1 12
WR Peyton Ramzy 38% 41% 0 0 2 29
WR Adrian Hardy 32% 32% 0 0 3 51
TE Sage Surratt 90% 92% 0 0 2 33
TE Bobby Holly 7% 3% 0 0 0 0

Breakers: Kyle Sloter continues to take every snap for the Breakers offense, although his three interceptions might not result in the longest leash moving forward if Zach Smith or Shea Patterson impresses behind the scenes.

Jordan Ellis and Anthony Jones are forming one of the league’s closest two-back committees at the moment. Jones is the better bet to find the end zone near the goal line.

Jonathan Adams has had a bad case of the butterfingers in recent weeks, but he remains this offense’s rather undisputed No. 1 pass-game option. And yet, Sal Cannella (95% route rate, 9 targets, 110 air yards) — a tight end who is basically a wide receiver — wound up leading the way in all key metrics tracked. Adams and Johnnie Dixon remain the favorites to lead the way in targets for any given week, but things are a bit crowded at wide receiver when all parties involved are healthy.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Kyle Sloter 100% 0% 41 1 0 0
HB Jordan Ellis 56% 51% 0 11 0 0
HB Anthony Jones 44% 41% 0 10 1 -3
WR Jonathan Adams Jr. 80% 80% 0 0 8 89
WR Taywan Taylor 72% 71% 0 0 6 64
WR Johnnie Dixon 69% 63% 0 1 7 70
WR Shawn Poindexter 50% 56% 0 0 4 25
WR Lee Morris 28% 29% 0 0 1 10
TE Sal Cannella 95% 95% 0 0 9 110
TE Justin Johnson 6% 5% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

Not exactly the most exciting game in the world, but the Stallions’ league-best defense once again did enough to bail out their largely ineffective offense. Credit to the Birmingham pass rush and secondary for creating enough issues for Kyle Sloter and company all afternoon long. Still, it’s going to be tough for the 8-0 Stallions to stay perfect without a better effort from J’Mar Smith and the rest of the offense.


Philadelphia Stars 46, Michigan Panthers 24

Touchdowns

The Stars scored the first of their many touchdowns on the opening drive thanks to Michigan leaving running back Matt Colburn completely uncovered after he motioned out wide. Bold move, Cotton. Stars 7, Panthers 0

Philadelphia quickly built its lead to two scores with another Colburn touchdown, this time via the ground from just one yard out. Colburn gained 31 yards on the drive and should be known as USFL Austin Ekeler from this day forward. Stars 14, Panthers 0

The Panthers finally found the end zone, courtesy of a one-yard plunge from quarterback Paxton Lynch. People don’t forget when USFL commentator Jason Garrett comped Lynch to Josh Allen. Stars 14, Panthers 7

Philly found the end zone for the third time in the game’s first 20 minutes, this time thanks to a five-yard touchdown from Case Cookus to Jordan Suell. Reliable slot receiver Chris Rowland made a pair of receptions for 28 total yards on the drive. Stars 21, Panthers 7

The Panthers managed to get things back to a one-score game before the half after Lynch hooked up with tight end La’Michael Pettway for a 33-yard score. We as a USFL fantasy football community have mocked the Panthers’ four-tight end offense for most of the season, but it worked out here. And for that: Good job. Stars 21, Panthers 18

The Stars found their way back to the end zone at the end of the third quarter thanks to a nine-yard touchdown reception from Devin Gray. Case Cookus didn’t let the ball hit the turf during the entire drive. Week 8 was easily his best performance of the season, and arguably the single-best game by a quarterback in (modern) USFL history. Stars 32, Panthers 18

Cookus continued to pile up counting stats with a 51-yard BOMB to tight end Pro Wells for the touchdown. The throw and catch were great and everything, but can we take a moment and appreciate how great of a football name “Pro Wells” is? Stars 39, Panthers 18

The Stars’ final touchdown came on an electric 79-yard scramble from Cookus. Electric may be a strong word; it was actually the slowest monster touchdown I’ve personally witnessed since J.T. Barrett outran the entire state of Minnesota back in the day. Either way, the score was the cherry on top of Cookus’ masterful performance. Stars 46, Panthers 18

Lynch largely kept driving the Panthers up and down the field — the previous drive ended when he fumbled a quarterback sneak attempt on the Stars’ goal line. He did rebound nicely and hooked up with running back Cam Scarlett from 11 yards out for the game’s final touchdown. Stars 46, Panthers 24

Offensive players of the game: Stars QB Case Cookus, Stars RB Matt Colburn, Panthers TE La’Michael Pettway

Cookus efficiently (9.5 YPA) threw for four touchdowns and 247 yards while also posting an explosive 4-118-1 rushing line. Needless to say, he earned PFF’s highest grade of the week (88.1) among quarterbacks.

Colburn continued to give the Stars a boost, posting 16-48-1 rushing and 3-49-1 receiving lines during last Sunday’s demolition.

Pettway was a consistent bright spot for the Michigan offense, reeling in seven of his eight targets for 97 yards and a score.

Defensive players of the game: Panthers DT Ethan Westbrooks, Stars S Ladarius Wiley

Westbrooks’ 91.8 PFF defense grade was the highest mark in Week 8, and he was one of just four defenders with at least six pressures. Wiley (91.5) ranked third.

Fantasy football workload notes

Stars: Case Cookus should continue to be expected to take every meaningful snap for this offense as long as Bryan Scott (ankle) is sidelined. And deservingly so. What a performance it was.

Matt Colburn has taken over as the featured back in this offense, although Darnell Holland was sidelined with a leg injury. Paul Terry (ankle) was also listed on the injury report despite being active. Expect him the keep leading the way in all categories even when Holland and Terry are closer to 100%, but the discrepancy might not be quite as large.

Jordan Suell, Devin Gray, Maurice Alexander and Bug Howard continue to work as the big four receivers in this offense, while Chris Rowland also made his presence felt as a slot WR/RB hybrid with the Stars’ backfield so banged up.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Case Cookus 96% 0% 31 4 0 0
QB K.J. Costello 4% 0% 0 2 0 0
HB Matt Colburn II 85% 77% 0 15 3 8
HB Paul Terry 2% 0% 0 0 0 0
WR Jordan Suell 83% 84% 0 0 5 29
WR Devin Gray 76% 77% 0 0 4 7
WR Maurice Alexander 74% 77% 0 0 4 33
WR Chris Rowland 48% 48% 0 4 2 16
WR Diondre Overton 30% 32% 0 0 0 0
WR Brennan Eagles 17% 10% 0 0 0 0
TE Bug Howard 57% 61% 0 0 4 37
TE Pro Wells 28% 19% 0 0 1 48

Panthers: Paxton Lynch was finally healthy enough to get back on the field, and he accordingly took every snap ahead of Josh Love. However, things could be split moving forward with the Panthers eliminated from playoff contention.

Reggie Corbin (elbow, thumb) was forced out of the game early, leading to a fairly evenly split between Stevie Scott and Cameron Scarlett — with the former seeing most of the run-game work, and the latter more of the routes.

Lance Lenoir and Joe Walker were the top wide receivers from a route perspective, but Ishmael Hyman (7 targets) and tight end La’Michael Pettway (8) wound up working as the most-targeted receivers behind Lenoir (12).

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Paxton Lynch 100% 0% 42 7 0 0
HB Stevie Scott III 49% 36% 0 11 2 5
HB Cameron Scarlett 43% 50% 0 5 4 0
HB Reggie Corbin 9% 7% 0 3 0 0
WR Lance Lenoir Jr. 93% 98% 0 1 12 80
WR Joe Walker 76% 79% 0 0 3 39
WR Devin Ross 53% 52% 0 1 3 59
WR Ishmael Hyman 47% 52% 0 0 7 54
TE La'Michael Pettway 59% 71% 0 0 8 61
TE Connor Davis 44% 31% 0 0 1 4
TE Ryan O'Malley 28% 12% 0 0 0 0
Final thoughts

The Stars have proven capable of putting up points in a hurry with either quarterback Bryan Scott (ankle) or Case Cookus under center. This is a dangerous offense that has already clinched a playoff berth, but realize the Stars’ league-worst defense in terms of overall PFF grade needs to be better against non-Jeff Fisher coached offenses in order for Philly to earn the city its first professional football championship since 2018.


Tampa Bay Bandits 13, Houston Gamblers 3

Touchdowns

Sixty minutes of action, one touchdown. The score came courtesy of a seven-yard pass from Jordan Ta’amu to Derrick Dillon that featured the latter receiver muscle his way into the end zone on third-and-goal. That was all the Bandits needed to comfortably win (and cover) against the now 1-7 Gamblers. Bandits 13, Gamblers 3

Offensive players of the game: Gamblers G Terronne Prescod, Bandits TE Cheyenne O’Grady

Prescod (71.1) and O’Grady (70.5) were the only players in the game to post an overall PFF grade north of 70.0. Don’t confuse this as especially great, with neither ranking among the week’s 15 highest-graded players. Such is life in a game where neither team reaches even 250 total yards of offense.

Defensive players of the game: Gamblers ED Chris Odom, Generals DT Toby Johnson

Odom tallied three sacks and a week-high seven pressures. Johnson also made his presence felt with four pressures and a sack.

Fantasy football workload notes

Bandits: Jordan Ta’amu continues to play every snap for this Bandits offense, and don’t expect that to change with the team’s season on the line next week against New Orleans.

BJ Emmons regained his lead in snaps and routes over Juwan Washington, although the latter back wound up getting most of the touches. This is one of the league’s more evenly split backfields, and it could feature either player taking the lead during any given week, although Washington probably continues to deserve the benefit of the doubt in pregame projections.

Derrick Dillon and John Franklin worked as the offense’s top two receivers from a route perspective, but this seven-wide receiver rotation made it tough for any single player to be overly featured. Cheyenne O’Grady was luckily back to being featured as the only tight end with De’Quan Hampton moved to the inactive roster for the time being.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Jordan Ta'amu 100% 0% 26 4 0 0
HB BJ Emmons 50% 62% 0 13 2 -4
HB Juwan Washington 44% 19% 0 19 1 1
WR Derrick Dillon 73% 77% 0 0 3 12
WR John Franklin III 66% 65% 0 1 2 21
WR Vinny Papale 56% 58% 0 0 1 16
WR Rashard Davis 55% 50% 0 0 5 23
WR Derrick Willies 37% 35% 0 0 1 12
WR Keith Mumphery 27% 23% 0 0 0 0
WR Dee Anderson 3% 8% 0 0 1 37
TE Cheyenne O'Grady 89% 85% 0 0 4 14

Gamblers: Kenji Bahar handled every snap as expected with Clayton Thorson (elbow) on the inactive list.

Devwah Whaley got the start and worked as the clear lead back with Mark Thompson (illness) sidelined. Expect Thompson to get back to working as the primary lead rusher and receiver if healthy enough to get back on the field in Week 9.

No. 1 wideout Isaiah Zuber (illness) was listed as a full go but wound up being inactive anyway. This led to Tyler Simmons, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Tyler Palka and Teo Redding working as the offense’s big four pass-game options inside of this pass-happy attack. JoJo Ward was also plenty involved. There isn’t another team that utilizes the tight end position less than the Gamblers.

POS Name Snap % Route % Dropbacks Carries Targets Air Yards
QB Kenji Bahar 100% 2% 41 8 0 0
HB Devwah Whaley 69% 62% 0 11 4 1
HB Dalyn Dawkins 31% 24% 0 5 3 2
WR Tyler Simmons 77% 74% 0 1 3 29
WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams 76% 88% 1 0 7 76
WR Tyler Palka 69% 88% 0 0 1 7
WR Teo Redding 66% 69% 0 0 8 64
WR JoJo Ward 55% 55% 0 0 3 2
TE Brandon Barnes 29% 10% 0 0 1 10
TE Julian Allen 27% 12% 0 0 1 10
Final thoughts

The Bandits haven’t exactly put forward a complete performance all season, but at 4-4, they are still alive in the playoff race and have a chance to tie the Breakers (5-3) with a victory in next week’s showdown. The defense got the job done in this one, although holding backup Houston quarterback Kenji Bahar to just three points was almost certainly an easier task than stopping the Kyle Sloter-led Breakers offense.

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